In Inside Out Families, Diana Garland reports on her study of what makes the most impact in a student’s spiritual life. She concludes after extensive survey and research, “Community service was significantly more closely related to the faith development of teens than attending worship services. Service appears to be more powerful than Sunday school, Bible study, or participation in worship in the faith development of teenagers.”[i]

She goes on to document that when teens serve alongside adults, the experience broadens their faith and redefines their understanding of church.

We recently asked a group of seasoned leaders from around the country this question about spiritual development, “If you had six ninth-grade boys or girls for four years, what would you do to encourage their spiritual development?” They each talked about different work projects and mission endeavors. Some mentioned the amount of time they would devote to building the relationship. Toward the end of the conversation, we realized that no one had brought up taking them to any kind of classroom presentation. Although these leaders guide churches with a large array of programs, not one suggested just putting teens into classes or trying to simply get them to attend church. Instinctively, many leaders recognize something more relational and experiential required for spiritual formation. The goal is not to cover a body of information, but to engage young people in a process that results in life-change.

Something powerful happens you partner with other influences who have a purpose to instill a sense of mission into the heart of your children. You give them a different view of their place in the world and you transfer a different kind of passion to them that your family alone cannot give them. It doesn’t mean that you as parents can’t engage in this mission with them. You should attempt to let your kids see what God can do through your family, as well as leverage influences to show them what God can do through them personally.

(Excerpt from Parenting Beyond Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Niewhof, page 67-68)

Why do you think serving others is so important to our spiritual and character development?